DNA is often called the blueprint of life as it carries the instructions that direct the growth and development of every living organism on Earth. How this information is used to guide very complex cellular and developmental programs is a major question in biology. DNA can be regulated in many different ways, typically including biochemical modifications. During the past years studies have increasingly revealed that another important aspect in the regulation of DNA is its spatial position within the cell nucleus. For instance, moving the DNA to different parts of the nucleus can change how it works. Indeed, it is now well known that the DNA is not randomly distributed within the nucleus but well organized into different regulatory regions and specialized domains.
Unlike animals, plants are exposed to an incredibly wide range of environmental challenges due to their sessile nature and have a remarkable ability to respond and adapt to a changing environment. While several organizing principles are partially conserved between plants and animals, recent studies started to provide details regarding plant specific nuclear organization. My research focuses on investigating how plants regulate and organize their DNA within the nucleus during important developmental transitions and in response to stress. I will present the work my lab is doing on the role of nuclear organization during the transition to flowering and in response to DNA damage. Our work has demonstrated that significant changes in nuclear positioning and DNA mobility occur during these processes and we are currently investigating their functional relevance as well as the underlying mechanisms.
Overall, the results emerging from these projects should give us a comprehensive view of how nuclear architecture, chromatin organization and gene expression are connected and modified in response to internal and external cues in plants. Besides deciphering basic biological mechanisms, the knowledge gained in these projects may become important to inform strategies for how to optimize plant growth and development in the future, thereby contributing to the imminent challenges of food security and sustainable agriculture.